Busyness is a burden, a status symbol and a lifestyle choice. Ironically, being busy all the time takes a toll on your productivity. It also erodes your relationships and sense of well-being. Without realizing it, you can become trapped in your own busyness cycle and not know how to escape it.
In this post, I’ll summarize key insights and offer reflections based on my own reading of the book. I hope you’ll read it too, and then join the conversation!
“But I don’t have time to read a book about busyness!”
It’s paradoxical, isn’t it? When you most need help on a topic, it’s nearly impossible to get the help you need. Some of us are so busy we don’t have time to think about why we’re busy, or how we can stop running ourselves ragged.
But Breaking Up with Busy meets you where you are. It’s easy to read, perfect for digesting a few pages at a time. Or for skimming sub-headings and pull-quotes so you can zero in on sections most relevant to you.
There are many nuggets in this book: lots of exercises and things you can try. It’s best to dive in and explore what works for your own situation.
Yvonne Tally knows busy
When it comes to writing a book on busyness, Yvonne knows what she’s talking about. In 2000 she co-founded Poised Inc., a fitness and lifestyle company in Silicon Valley. She grew the business and developed an outside consulting practice. A single mom, she raised her daughter and sent her to college. All while cultivating a social life and entertaining friends with her gourmet cooking talents.
The book is grounded in research, but also made relatable through the personal experiences it describes. In it, Tally confesses the busyness in her own life and turning points when she realized something had to change. She also tells stories of women she’s worked with over the years. Together the examples illustrate ways that busyness can derail you, and what you can do about it.
Traps for the OSW (Overscheduled Woman)
Among many clever acronyms and phrases in Breaking Up with Busy, OSW (Overscheduled Woman) is one of the most important. The book addresses itself to OSWs and asserts that busyness has become an ethos in our society:
There is a cultural expectation that women should always be busy, and if they’re not, well, they must not be all that important, or worse, they must be lazy.
Breaking Up with Busy, p. 1
To help you determine your particular flavor of busyness, the book describes common OSW traps:
- The Being All Trap
- The Keeping Up Trap
- The Saying Yes Trap
- The Overgiving Trap
The “Being All” trap, for example, comes from a desire for affirmation that causes you to pressure yourself to “be everything to everyone.” The good news is, however, that it’s possible to free yourself from traps such as this one. But first you have to recognize the power that an OSW trap has over you.
Based on your personal OSW traps and the strategies you use to deal with situations in your life, you’ll fit into one or more Overscheduled Woman types. The book has a memorable name for each OSW type:
- The Pleaser
- The Time Optimist
- The Perfectionist
- The Sorority Sister
- The Alpha
I identify most with The Perfectionist. It’s not a moniker I’m proud of, but it’s one I have to admit does fit me. According to the book, I’m particularly susceptible to the Being All and Keeping Up traps. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? I wish I identified as a Time Optimist or Sorority Sister — they’re surely more fun.
Prescriptions to help you break up with busy
One of the most helpful aspects of this book is how it pairs OSW types with specific actions you can take to “break up with busy” in your life. So in my example, I first identified my OSW type to be The Perfectionist. Then the text pointed me toward certain things in later chapters that would help me address busyness based on my specific OSW type.
“Reset your mindset”
The first things in your Breaking Up with Busy “toolbox” are ways you can “reset your mindset.” Besides practices you’ve likely heard of before (like Gratitude), there are others you may not have considered.
For example, I like the one Yvonne calls Permission. While giving yourself permission can take many forms, it usually involves facing some type of fear. For example, I may want to skip a mind-clearing walk outside this afternoon because I’m afraid I don’t have time to get my other tasks done. But if I give myself permission to take the walk, I’ll likely renew my energy and focus. The net result: I’ll probably finish those tasks faster if I give myself permission to take a walk than if I don’t.
Of all the catchy phrases in this book, “busy-busting solutions” is my favorite. It connotes a take-charge attitude that reminds me I’m in control of my life. Among the busy-busting solutions that the book prescribes for my “perfectionist” OSW type are The Healthy No and Take Five. These are what they sound like: saying “no” and taking short breaks that allow you to recharge.
More unique is the solution called Flip. FLIP stands for Find Light and Inspiration in the Problem. It involves a conscious effort to change your view of a problem by changing the words you use to talk about it. The book offers a list of “situation” words and suggested “flip” words.
Thus the FLIP busy-busting solution offers a way both to “reset your mindset” and to act on it. Plus, for those of us who were never good at gymnastics, it’s a powerful exercise we can train ourselves to do at any age.
The book has lots more busy-busting solutions — read up on the ones that work best for your brand of busy.
Your busy-free playbook
The last chapter gives fifty-two suggestions you can use to inspire yourself to “break up with busy.” Some of them are helpful reminders of things you probably already know — like Expect the Unexpected or Be Better, Not Perfect.
Other suggestions, however, will make you think. For example, try to Dare Yourself or Compass Your Orbit. In all, you can reflect and work on a different practice every week. By doing so, you’ll find the ones that help you escape busyness traps you stumble into most often.
Mind your own busyness
You’re the one who has to direct your life. Although you may feel as though busyness is controlling you, there are steps you can take to break free. The trick, however, is that no one else is going to do it for you.
One tool that may help you is Breaking Up with Busy*. You can pick and choose among the questions and exercises it offers to help you explore causes and solutions for your own busyness.
As Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Safe travels, and let me know how the trip is going.